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By Larry Adams
A new magnetic resonance imaging machine is capable of imaging not just the anatomy but metabolism within the brain.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the MRI machine is located, say that the technology ushers in a new age of metabolic imaging that will help researchers understand the workings of the human brain, detect diseases before their clinical signs appear, develop targeted drug therapies for illnesses like stroke and provide a better understanding of learning disabilities.
"This technological leap forward is as revolutionary to the medical community as the transition from radio to television was for society," says Dr. Keith Thulborn, director of the UIC Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. "GE's magnet is introducing a whole new dimension to imaging by enabling researchers to better understand how the human brain thinks, learns, fights disease and responds to experimental therapies."
Central to the technology is a 9.4-tesla magnet, larger than any other human-sized magnet, built by GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company. A tesla is a large measuring unit of magnetic strength.
The current industry standard for MRI systems is 1.5 tesla, which limits researchers to imaging water molecules. As a result, only anatomical changes can be detected and monitored.